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Healthy Habits: Acne – Facial skin care

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The primary culprit of acne is hormones; however, heredity also comes into play.

Acne is a very common skin condition that has to do with hair follicles, oil, and dead skin cells. Acne likes to make itself visible through its presentation of pimples, oily skin, blackheads, whiteheads and scarring. These symptoms are found on the face, chest, shoulders and back.

Almost everyone has had one of these acne types at some point in their life. The oil glands on the face clog the pores. Pores are where hair follicles are found. Large pores that are clogged create blackheads. These look like tiny black dots on the face. Small pores that are clogged create whiteheads which are the white colored bumps that surface and release puss when aggravated.

Either type can develop into a pimple that is typically tender and swollen. Severe cases of acne form nodules that can even become infected.

Acne likes to claim its fame during puberty and lasts into a person's 20s. Adult acne is more common in women than men. The primary culprit of acne is hormones. Heredity also comes into play for many people; however, chocolate won't cause acne as commonly believed. The increase in hormones during the teenage years produces more androgens, which are the male sex hormones, including testosterone.

Testosterone produces sebum from the skin's oil glands. Bacteria can also clog the hair follicles. And the trapped bacteria becomes the black and/or whitehead. As such, it makes sense that women on birth control or people using steroids are at higher risk for acne due to hormonal changes induced to the body.

For most people, acne makes them feel uncomfortable. Although mainly temporary, it can leave scars. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies such as face washes and creams. When these approaches don't work, a doctor might prescribe medication. Make up and cover creams can be an option. The most effective treatment is trying to prevent sebum production.

Preventing bacteria growth is also important. Exfoliation can help unclog the pores. Cleansers can be used that have sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid and/or salicylic acid. For many, soap and water alone can help prevent acne.

For others, topical gels, alcohol or acetone might need to be used to reduce oil on the skin. It will help treat how the skin grows and sheds. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics. Some of these medications do have possible side effects including dry skin, swelling and sensitivity to sunlight.

Megan Johnson McCullough, Ph.D., recently earned her doctorate in physical education and health science, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.


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